Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Role Of The Left-led Governments And Our Understanding

By Prakash Karat

The CPI(M) and the Communist movement in India have the rich experience of working in state governments within a parliamentary democracy. It was in 1957 that the Communist Party was able to win a majority in the assembly elections in Kerala soon after the state was formed. The first communist ministry lasted twenty-nine months, before it was dismissed by the central government invoking Article 356 of the Constitution. After the formation of the CPI(M), as a result of the 1967 general elections, United Front governments were formed in Kerala and West Bengal. In Kerala, the CPI(M) headed the government and it lasted till 1969. In West Bengal, the first United Front government was formed with Ajoy Mukherjee of the Bangla Congress as the Chief Minister. This government fell and after the mid-term elections in 1969, the second United Front Government was formed which was toppled in 1970.

After this, the next phase of CPI(M) and Left-led governments were initiated in the post-Emergency period. Since 1977 when the first Left Front government was formed in West Bengal, the Left Front government has ruled for twenty-nine years, winning seven successive elections. In Tripura, the first Left Front government was formed after the elections in 1978 and the second Left Front government was formed in 1983. After ten years of Left Front rule, the assembly elections of 1988 were violently rigged with the help of the Central government. After five years of terror, the Left Front government was reelected in 1993 and for the last thirteen years Tripura has been run by a Left Front government. In Kerala, there have been repeated and alternative stints in office for the Left and Democratic Front which was formed in 1980. These were in 1980-1982, 1987-1991, 1996-2001 and the LDF was elected again to office in the 2006 assembly elections.

How does the Party view the participation and role in state governments? How does it fit in with the strategy for People’s Democratic Revolution set out in the Party Programme and the tactical line of building a Left and Democratic alternative.

Party Programme Direction

The Party programme sets out the goal of People’s Democracy to replace the existing bourgeois-landlord system. To proceed towards this aim it is necessary to build a People’s Democratic Front of the working class, the peasantry and other allies at the all India level through the development of a powerful movement. As an interim step towards developing the People’s Democratic Front, the Party has put forward the slogan of a Left and Democratic alternative. In the process of this struggle to build the Left and Democratic Front at the all India level, it is possible that the Party and the Left and democratic forces will become strong in some states to acquire legislative majority.

In such a situation, the Party programme sanctions the participation of the Party in such governments while keeping in mind that the states have very limited powers and it is the Centre which controls State power and all its instruments. The understanding of the Party on our participation in governments was contained in Para 112 of the Party Programme which was adopted in 1964. A communist Party programme deals with the character of the State, stage and class alliance for the revolution. Normally it does not deal with tactical questions. The necessity to incorporate a tactical issue that is of our participation in the state governments came up because such a possibility could arise. For instance, when the 7th Congress met to adopt the Party Programme, it was known that a mid-term assembly election was coming up in Kerala. There was a possibility that the CPI(M) would emerge as a big force in the elections. Therefore, it was necessary to clarify our approach to the formation and participation in state governments. The issue was not the question of CPI(M)’s participation in parliamentary elections and legislative forums. There was no confusion on the matter because the Party accepted the Leninist understanding of participation in parliamentary forums.

What did para 112 say? The formulation in this para was as follows:
“The Party will obviously have to work out various interim slogans in order to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing political situation. Even while keeping before the people the task of dislodging the present ruling classes and establishing a new democratic state and government based on the firm alliance of the working class and peasantry, the Party will utilise all the opportunities that present themselves of bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people. The formation of such governments will give great fillip to the revolutionary movement of the working people and thus help the process of building the democratic front. It, however, would not solve the economic and political problems of the nation in any fundamental manner. The party, therefore, will continue to educate the mass of the people on the need for replacing the present bourgeois-landlord state and government headed by the big bourgeoisie even while utilising all opportunities for forming such governments of a transitional character which give immediate relief to the people and thus strengthen the mass movement.”

While setting out the strategic goal of dislodging the present ruling classes and establishing a new People’s Democratic State and government, interim slogans and tactics have to be worked. This may require “bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people.” The formation of governments can provide a fillip to the revolutionary movement of the working people if they give relief to the people and strengthen the mass movements. At the same time there should be no illusion that they can solve the basic economic and political problems of the country in a fundamental manner. The formation of governments with CPI(M) participation should therefore help to develop the Left and democratic movement.

The provision in the Programme makes it clear that a state government run by the Party cannot fulfil the strategic goals. What the state governments can do is to advance the political-tactical line of the Party and in the context of our programmatic understanding work to strengthen the Left and democratic forces, so that a Left and democratic alternative emerges in the country.

Experience of First Communist Ministry

This implied that the state governments working within the existing bourgeois-landlord system can adopt limited policy measures. There should be no confusion that a Left-led state government can do away with the big bourgeoisie, or abolish landlordism or check foreign finance capital in a state. In 1957 itself, when the first EMS ministry was formed, this became clear.
The first EMS government could take the initiative to implement land reforms, democratise the educational system and adopt a pro-people police policy. These historic steps which had a far-reaching impact was possible because these were subjects which fell in the State’s sphere. But all these measures were not aimed at basic social transformation. In fact, the land reforms legislation only implemented what the Congress government had promised. Even these progressive measures incurred the wrath of the ruling classes and after 28 months, Article 356 of the Constitution was used by the Nehru government to dismiss the first Communist ministry.
A lot of questions were raised when the Kerala government signed an agreement with the Birla-owned Gwalior Rayons for setting up a wagon plant in the state. How can the Party which is opposed to the big bourgeoisie like Birlas and Tatas invite the Birlas to set-up a factory? Is this not a betrayal of its basic aim?

It is in this context that for the first time the distinction was drawn between strategy and tactics. EMS Namboodiripad had cited the Communist Manifesto to show how the Communists fight for “immediate aims” but in the movement for the present “they also represent and take care of the future of that movement”. Writing about the industrial policy of the first Communist ministry later, EMS stated:
“Given this reality, whether we should go in for new industries in Kerala as part of the Congress Central government’s industrialisation policy or should we try in isolation in Kerala to check the growth of monopoly capitalists – this was the question confronted by the Party.
“The possibility to start big industries in the public sector was almost nil in Kerala. Among the big industries in the public sector proposed during the Second Plan period, not a single one was going to be set-up in Kerala. There were numerous impediments to start new industries even in the private sector. Our opponents were already engaged in discouraging those private industrialists desirous to come here by projecting the labour relations here as being very bad. A climate of industrialisation could be created here only through a conscious effort to remove these barriers.
“Faced with this reality, the government made conscious efforts to attract industrialists from outside, who were ready to invest and to start industries here, as well as to encourage the like minded within the state…..”
The experience of running the first Communist government helped the CPI(M) to provide for the tactical direction in Para 112.

New Situation & Tasks:
Concretises Role of State Governments

It is in 1967 that the Party was called upon to give concrete shape to this tactical direction given in the Party programme. In the 1967 general elections, for the first time, the Congress lost its monopoly of power in the states when it was defeated in nine states. This came in the background of mounting economic difficulties leading to popular discontent and widespread mass struggles. Non-Congress governments were formed in nine states. The CPI(M) alongwith the CPI and other allies formed United Front governments in Kerala and West Bengal.
The Central Committee adopted a resolution “New Situation and Tasks” in April 1967 which elaborated the understanding of the Party regarding the United Front governments in which we were participating.

First, the resolution spelt out the character of the state governments and their limitations. Real State power is exercised by the central government.
“Above all, governmental power in the states has got to be understood in clear class terms and with all its limitations. The essence of state power, we know, lies in the army, police, bureaucracy, judiciary and jails, and all this machinery belongs to the bourgeois-landlord state. In class outlook, composition and in several other respects it is not an instrument that is suitable even for the implementation of a consistently democratic administration, let along any class policies decisively directed against the vested interests. A good and essential part of state power resides in the Union Centre and the Congress Central Government and whatever small share of power the state governments possess, under the provisions of the country’s Constitution, will have to be exercised within the confines of this overall central power. Naturally, under these circumstances, to speak of real political power for the state governments, that too, of non-Congress governments comprising of different opposition parties, is unreal and devoid of substance”.

The resolution explained the way the ministries should function keeping in mind the direction given in Para 112.
“Finally, there is one point to be constantly borne in mind by our comrades working in the UF Cabinet. We cannot forecast the actual lifespan of these Governments and all the possible vicissitudes they will have to undergo during the tenure of their ministries. We cannot also definitely say how much relief can be given to the people and what actual possibilities are opened up for these Governments to do so. Our ministries, without either entertaining undue illusions about giving relief in a big way, or courting despair that nothing can be done under the present set-up, should always bear in mind that they as the Party’s representatives, should strive to tender our bona fides to the people. Any failure on this score compromises the Party’s political line in the eyes of the people; adversely affects the independent mobilisation of the people; and their activities, and all this in turn, will not help us to resist and overcome the vacillations, wobblings and sometimes even possible backsliding of some democratic parties in the UFs and their respective Governments. In a word, the UF governments that we have now are to be treated and understood as instruments of struggle in the hands of our people, more than as Governments that actually possess adequate power, that can materially and substantially give relief to the people. In clear class terms, our Party’s participation in such Governments is one specific form of struggle to win more and more people, and more and more allies for the cause of People’s Democracy and at a later stage for Socialism.”

The 1967 resolution also characterized the various non-Congress state governments, which were formed into four categories. The first category comprised the United Front governments of Kerala and West Bengal where the Left Democratic forces were in a dominant position. In the second category came the DMK government of Tamilnadu which was a single party government. It represented a radical bourgeois platform and a consistent platform of states autonomy. The third category were the states where some Left and democratic forces were in coalition with rightist parties and the Jan Sangh (Bihar and Punjab). In the fourth category were state governments in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana where right and reactionary parties like Jan Sangh and Swatantra were predominant. The CPI(M) decided not to join in the state governments of the third and fourth category. It nailed down the CPI’s opportunism in joining such state governments as in the Bihar, UP and Punjab. It is based on this resolution that the Party formulated the stand that the Party will join only those governments where we and the other Left and democratic forces can have a decisive say in policy making and its implementation.

Experience of the U.F. Governments

The 1967-70 U.F. governments were marked by intra-front strife. There were clashes and conflicts between the constituent parties. In West Bengal, between the Bangla Congress and the Party and later between the Party and the CPI, Forward Bloc and others. In Kerala, the main conflict was with the CPI who rallied other parties like the Muslim League and RSP with it. One of the major reasons for the downfall of these governments were these conflicts and in particular the CPI’s political line which veered to allying with the Congress after the split in the Congress Party in 1969. There were also differences on the approach to government, the pace of change etc. For instance in Kerala, the Party’s slogan of “administration and struggle” was opposed by the CPI which maintained that the two cannot go together. The Congress utilized all these differences and conflicts in both the states to topple the governments. In Kerala, a mini-front government with CPI leader Achutha Menon was formed. In West Bengal, CPI and other left parties deserted and fought the CPI(M) in the 1971 and 72 elections in the background of the rising terror directed against the Party.

The Party’s firm stance against the Central government’s policies, seeing the formation of the Left-led governments as part of the class struggle and the steady expansion of its mass base alarmed the anti-Marxist forces and the revisionists. But it was the correct united front tactics of the Party and its creative approach to the state governments that helped the Party to overcome the odds. Though the Party paid a heavy price for it. For nearly a decade, hundreds of our cadres were killed in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura in a situation where Left unity was disrupted and the state machinery utilized to repress the Party. Finally in 1977 the Left forces (the CPI in 1980) came together which was acceptance of the correctness of our political line and united front approach.

The 1967-70 period of UF governments threw up a rich and varied experience for the Party on united front tactics and also how to participate and run governments. It made a big contribution to expanding the Party’s base in these states and to vanquish the erroneous political line of the CPI. This helped established the leadership role of the Party among the Left and democratic forces in these two states. After the interregnum of struggles and repression, the Left Front that emerged in West Bengal and Tripura were different as it comprised only the Left parties, there was greater cohesion and though different views are there, there is none of the conflicts and bitter clashes witnessed in the earlier period. This has been mainly due to the dominant position of the CPI M) within the Left Front. In Kerala, the situation was different. The Left Democratic Front contained bourgeois and democratic parties. Unlike in 1967, when C.C. resolutions noted that the CPI (M) was a stronger component in Kerala in the United Front than in West Bengal, the reverse happened. Over a period of time, the CPI (M) was reduced to fighting only fifty per cent of the seats that was not commensurate to our strength. In the LDF from 1980 onwards, we could not increase the number of seats fought or strengthen the Party’s role in the government. It is only in the 2006 assembly elections, that the Party has been able to contest over 60 percent of the seats and win 65 seats (out of 140), the highest number so far. This is essential if the left and democratic platform is to be advanced and the LDF government is take up issues and policies based on such a platform.

Gains Due to Participation in Governments

Based on the tactical direction given in the Party programme we have to assess the role of the Left-led state governments on the following basis:
1. Have they been able to expand the mass base of our Party in the concerned states utilising the governments to mobilise more and more people around the Left and Democratic platform?
2. Have we been able to render help (immediate relief) to the people.
3. Are we successful in making the people aware of the limitations of the state governments that they do not possess real power and the necessity to struggle for a change in the correlation of forces at the all India level?
4. Have we adhered to the line laid down by the Party programme and the Central Committee in the working of such state governments, or, have we reconciled ourselves to being a part and parcel of the bourgeois-landlord State?

On the first point, there is no doubt that the Party has steadily expanded its mass base in the three states where we have been running state governments. This would be clear if we examine what was the Party’s mass base, strength of the mass organisations and electoral base when we first formed the government in 1967 in West Bengal and Kerala and Tripura in 1977and the position now in the three states. As for the second point of helping the people and providing immediate relief, the Left-led governments of the three states stand apart for their implementation of land reform legislations. It is only these three states which have seriously undertaken land reforms within the existing laws. This is an important factor in expanding the mass base of the Party. From the outset, the Left-led state governments refused to let the police be used against the struggles of the working class, peasantry and other democratic sections. The Left-led governments have been marked by their firm stand against the communal forces, prevention of communal riots or effectively tackling them. As for the third point, the CPI(M) in these three states have consistently campaigned and mobilised the people in movements to explain the class character and attitude of the central government and make the people conscious of the limitations of the state government in the present set up. Fourthly, the state governments headed by us have striven to implement the tactical line and formulate policies which can help mobilise the people as distinct from the policies of the other bourgeois-run state governments. Even though the odds and difficulties have increased, there is a consistent effort to ensure that the differences between a Left-led government and other state governments are brought before the people.

One of the consistent themes of the Left-led governments has been to fight against the Congress Central government’s discriminatory attitude to the Left-run state governments. Connected to this is the struggle for more state rights and to restructure centre-state relations.

The CPI(M)’s line of thinking as propounded in para 112 of its Party programme, has borne fruit, leaving a strong imprint on India politics. It has increased the Party’s mass following in whichever state it has had the opportunity of playing a leading role in government along with the other left forces, the role played by our Party in these left-led governments, despite the numerous limitations imposed by the Centre run by ruling class parties and its constitutional prerogatives, has helped the CPI(M) to emerge as the leading Left party in the country.

New Situation & Challenges

The role of the CPI(M)-led state governments cannot be seen in isolation from the overall political situation and the tactical line adopted by the Party. Till the end of the eighties, the Party’s struggle to end the Congress monopoly in power, fight authoritarian trends, rally the democratic forces and fight back the anti-people policies were the backdrop in which the state governments functioned. The situation changed by the end of the 1980s. One party dominance of the Congress ended. Our Party’s tactical line and intervention played an important role in this, both in the struggle against authoritarianism and in rallying other secular bourgeois parties. The first change came about in the post-1977 period. After the successful struggle against one party authoritarianism, the ruling classes were no more united to fight the Marxists. The division in the ruling classes helped in our sustaining the Left Front government in West Bengal for a longer period. In the earlier phase, the governments formed from 1957 till 1967-70 lasted only on an average of not more than two years. The first communist ministry in Kerala lasted 29 months. Both the UF governments in West Bengal together had tenures of less than three years. The Kerala UF government lasted a little over two years. It was the success of our tactical line and the division of the ruling classes which enabled the governments of the post 1977 period to last for longer terms. Except for the 1988 episode of rigging in Tripura, the ruling classes have not been able to launch a counter offensive to dislodge the Left-led governments undemocratically. This is a reflection also of how the mass base of the Party has grown in the three states.
After the Left Front stabilizing and the durability of the government being ensured, the agenda of development with a pro-people orientation assumed importance. This has to accompanied by developing movements and struggles which can win new sections, expand the mass base of the Party and be part of the all-India movement to build a third alternative which can go forward to the left and democratic front. In the earlier phase, we talked in terms of using the state governments as “instruments of struggle” (New Situation and Tasks). Could that be the concept for running a government in the post 1977 phase?

After the adoption of the Party programme in 1964, the understanding that prevailed flowing from the international and national situation was as follows: 1. Internationally, socialism was considered the decisive force in shaping the correlation of forces 2. The national liberation movements were emerging victorious against imperialism 3. In the national situation, the economic crisis was seen to be developing into a political crisis 4. the formation of the UF governments were seen to be part of the rising tide of democratic forces 5. Call was given for a national democratic alternative to Congress rule.

In such a situation, the CC characterized the governments as instruments of struggle. After the end of the emergency and the 1977 elections, a new situation emerged. This was assessed in the Tenth Congress and a tactical line evolved.

It was no more relevant to view the Left led governments solely as instruments of struggle. It had to incorporate the aspect of running the government to meet the aspirations of the people, their developmental needs and mobilising them for alternative policies. This becomes all the more important in the context of the all India movement and the Left not being able to develop substantially in other parts of the country. The people of the three Left bastions cannot be told to wait indefinitely for their problems to be addressed till a change takes place at the all-India level. Given the fact that the emergence of a left and democratic alternative is a protracted affair, the governance, administration and development issues which affect the lives of people cannot be a secondary factor.

How to fulfill the commitments to the people and provide a government which is distinct from that of the bourgeois parties came to the fore.
In West Bengal, even before liberalisation, the issue of how to go about industrialisation came up. The issue of Haldia petro-chemical project being set-up in the joint sector came up in 1984-85. the state government decided to go in for a joint venture with the private sector. Questions were raised whether this was permissible. In the 12th Congress of the Party in December 1985, the matter was discussed. Comrade B. T. Ranadive summed up the discussions by stating that West Bengal under Left Front rule has been facing an “economic blockade” from the Centre. West Bengal was discriminated against on a class basis because it is run by a Left-led government. It is in the class interests of the working class to break this blockade. Industrialisation is necessary for West Bengal to generate employment. So the petro-chemical project with private sector participation is a tactical necessity. The Haldia project was the first major industrial venture initiated by the state government after it came into office in 1977.

After Liberalisation

The political situation by the end of the eighties changed. Throughout the 1990s there was a shift to the right with the rise of the BJP first as the major opposition party and later with its six years in office. The rise of the Hindutva communal forces had an adverse impact on the advance of the Left and democratic forces. The defence of secularism and isolating the communal forces also became a priority for the Left-led state governments. The second important change was the liberalisation and privatisation process which was initiated in 1991. The prominent features of these new liberalized policies were:

1. The deregulation of the economy and delicencing of industries by the Centre;
2. The curtailing of the public sector, its outright dismantling in certain areas and privatisation;
3. The opening up of India’s economy to foreign capital with special facilities for them;
4. The opening of the financial sector to foreign capital; and
5. The reduction in state intervention in the development of industries and the economy including the sphere of infrastructure and social sector expenditure.

The political resolutions of the Party Congresses from 1992 onwards have pointed out that these economic policies are not just the policies of the Congress(I) but of the Indian ruling classes. In fact, the BJP is also a vigorous advocate of neo-liberal policies.

The Central Committee resolution of 1994 On the Role of the West Bengal Left Front Government In The Context Of the New Economic Policies was the first document adopted by the Party to reappraise how the Left Front government can chalk out a path of development and formulate policies in a new situation where due to deregulation and delicencing it was no longer an issue of central discrimination but the state government having to solicit investments for industrial and infrastructural development. There was a change also in the Centre-State relations. The encroachment and limitations on the states came in new form through the Finance Commission’s terms of reference and for Central grants and loans for sectoral development conditionalities were attached whereby states had to undertake privatisation, downsizing etc.
It is in this context that it should be noted that the West Bengal government was the first government to come out with an alternative package when the Narasimha Rao government came to power in 1991. It should also be noted that subsequently in all the major strike struggles and movements launched by the Left parties and mass organisations it was the strength provided by the Left bastion of West Bengal and the strong contingents in Kerala and Tripura which enabled the CPI (M) to play a leading role in widening the resistance to the new economic policies and offering alternative policies. As the Central Committee resolution points out:
“It is the strength of the organised working class and the other sections of the toiling people in West Bengal, the total membership of the mass organisations led by the Party alone in West Bengal is over two crores, that has helped in the struggle against the economic policies. The existence of the Left Front government continuously from 1977 onwards has contributed in building up this organised strength and spearhead of the Left movement.
“However, to expect from the Left Front government that it alone can implement basic alternative policies in the face of this all India liberalisation and privatisation is to do violence to our own basic Party understanding and the programme. The Left Front government can only play a limited role in alternate policy implementation while it can play a big role in mobilizing the people against the centre’s policies. It is the Left Front government’s big achievement that it has been able to achieve a breakthrough in the areas where it has a greater degree of power – implementation of land reforms and stimulating agricultural production, decentralizing power to the panchayats and involving them in development work and to expand the democratic rights of the rural poor using the state machinery to neutralize the police and repressive measures against the working people’s struggles and to use the limited resources to stimulate small scale industrial development.”

Further, with the cutbacks in public investment and the social sector by the Centre, the state governments were squeezed of resources and unable to fulfill their commitments.
Taking stock of the new situation, the resolution stated: “Unlike in 1985, when the struggle was against the discrimination of the Centre, with its power of licensing and regulation of industry against West Bengal today with deregulation and delicencing it is upto the Left Front Government to initiate steps to attract capital investment in West Bengal. This can be done only by allowing greater investment of private capital in various sectors. This is the basis on which the Left Front government has to adjust its policies in West Bengal to meet the new situation brought about by the Centre’s policy of liberalisation. While doing so, the CPI(M) led government has to be conscious of not adopting any such terms or implementation which are only due to the unjustified pressure of foreign capital or big business. It should not go against available indigenous technology or lead to diversion of limited capital resources to inessential sectors……While orienting the policies and regulations in the state to facilitate greater private investment, the people should constantly be told that such industrialization and expansion of the private sector cannot solve the basic problems and class exploitation will continue and increase with the overall liberalisation policy of the Centre.”

Updated Programme Formulation

When the updating of the Party programme took place, the experience of running the state governments both in the earlier phase and in the post-1991 phase was taken into account. After the existence of the Left Front government in West Bengal for more than two decades and the long stints of such governments in Tripura and Kerala it was not sufficient to talk in terms of only providing “immediate” relief to the people. While the Left-led governments were successful in mobilizing more and more people around the platform of the Left and Democratic forces, the people expect these governments to also provide development. Creating employment, public education and health facilities, provision of basic services etc had to be on the agenda of the state governments. While the pressure of the central government and the ruling classes was for uncritical acceptance of the policies of liberalisation and privatisation, the Left-led governments had to take into account the existing realities and limitations of the state governments and work out policies and measures for economic and social development which would at the same time show that the Left-led governments have a pro-people approach and alternative policies which are part of our Left and Democratic platform. Para 112 of the earlier programme after revision in the updated programme as para 7.17 reads as follows:
“The Party will obviously have to work out various interim slogans in order to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing political situation. Even while keeping before the people the task of dislodging the present ruling classes and establishing a new democratic State and government based on the firm alliance of the working class and the peasantry, the Party will utilise the opportunities that present themselves of bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a programme of providing relief to the people and strive to project and implement alternative policies within the existing limitations. The formation of such governments will strengthen the revolutionary movement of the working people and thus help the process of building the people's democratic front. It, however, would not solve the economic and political problems of the nation in any fundamental manner. The Party, therefore, will continue to educate the mass of the people on the need for replacing the present bourgeois-landlord State and government headed by the big bourgeoisie even while utilising opportunities for forming such governments in the states or the Centre, depending on the concrete situation, and thus strengthen the mass movement.” (Para 7.17)
Instead of the governments aiming to carry out a “modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people”, the updated programme provides for “governments pledged to carry out a programme of providing relief to the people and strive to project and implement alternative policies within the existing limitations.“ The governments cannot confine themselves to only providing immediate relief but something more substantial. It also should strive to implement within the existing limitations certain alternative policies. In fact even the implementation of land reforms is not just providing “immediate relief” but is part of the alternative platform of the Left and democratic forces.

The earlier formulation had described these governments as “governments of a transitional character”. The word “transitional” has been dropped since it may create confusion that these governments have a very limited period. But the word transitional has a more basic meaning that the governments formed are part of the attempt to bring about a transition to the Left and democratic alternative and the People’s Democratic Front. The third point in the updated para clarifies that this tactical approach to participation in government applies to both the states and the Central governments. Participation in the Central government will also be based on the framework set out in Para 7.17 and the factors influencing such a decision will depend on the concrete situation prevailing and whether such a step will help strengthen the revolutionary movement and help the process of building a People’s Democratic Front.

On Certain Policy Issues

It is flowing from this understanding that the Central Committee has been addressing issues and policy matters arising out of our running the three state governments. In the 18th Party Congress we adopted a document on Certain Policy Issues as part of the Political Organisational Report. In this section some of the policy questions before the state governments led by our Party were addressed and a direction given. These pertain to: 1. Taking loans and grants from foreign and multilateral agencies; 2. stand on public sector; 3. foreign direct investment.
There are certain other policy directives which have relevance to the Left-led state governments such as the demands/steps to be taken in the sphere of education and health system that are increasingly getting privatized and commercialized. The document spells out our stand on NGOs and Self Help Groups (SHGs) which also needs to find reflection in government policy.

On Loans & Grants

The document spells out the approach to be taken by our governments towards loans and grants from foreign countries/agencies. Under the neo-liberal policies state governments are faced with a fiscal crunch. Central transfers have come down, there are high interest rates on loans given to the Centre and the thrust is to compel states to promote privatisation in the social sector to meet the withdrawal of the state from its commitments. In such a situation, it will not be possible for the Left-led state governments to avoid taking loans and assistance from foreign and multilateral agencies, if they are to implement their developmental programmes and maintain their social sector commitments. As the document points out:

“These governments, therefore, may accept aid for developmental projects but the important criteria that needs to be adhered is that there should be no conditionalities which are against our basic interests and policies. In no case should we go in for loans which involve structural adjustment programmes. Such programmes entail conditionalities like privatisation of certain sectors, downsizing staff, cutting subsidies and fiscal conditionalities.

“The CPI(M)-led state governments have to function under constraints, including those imposed by imperialist-dictated policies at the Centre, which the Party fights to overcome. The Party’s fight against such policies, therefore, is simultaneously a defence of the interests of our state governments. Whenever our governments hard-pressed for funds but duty-bound to provide relief to the people are offered loans by imperialist agencies and western governments, the Party should consent to such loans only if it does not weaken its fight against the imperialist-dictated policies. In all cases, where the Party agrees to such loans from international agencies like World Bank, ADB, DFID, JBIC etc, it must take the people into confidence and explain to them the justification for taking such loans.

“Increasingly, in this phase of imperialist globalisation, a large number of western governments and agencies patronized by them fund developmental activities in third world countries. The question of accepting such funds will, once again, have to be based on a similar approach by evaluating the conditionalities that are attached. The thumb rule that must guide our governments as well as other institutions in deciding the acceptance of such funds must be based on an evaluation that this will provide some relief to the people and lead to economic improvement without compromising the state government’s autonomy in economic decision making. Our attitude towards accepting such funding must strictly be based on such an understanding.”


On FDI, the document sets out broadly the criteria for acceptance of foreign capital investment which is applicable to our state governments too:

“Under such circumstances, the flow of foreign capital into our country, in the present conditions, must be regulated by stipulating the following conditions: a) such capital should augment the existing productive capacities in our economy; b) such foreign capital must upgrade the Indian economy technologically; and c) such capital must lead to employment generation.

“While foreign capital will seek to exploit our natural resources and labour to garner superprofits, the struggle for imposition of these conditions will, apart from making the resistance to the task of eroding national sovereignty more effective, render some benefit to the Indian economy and the people.

“Apart from these conditions, the entry of foreign capital into specific areas (like, for instance, with respect to agricultural sector, for example, land use regulations, trade tariffs, seeds, fertilizers etc) which can have negative consequences for our economic and political sovereignty must be opposed.”

Tasks Before the Party

The entire Party must imbibe the understanding of the role of the CPI(M)-led governments. Failure to do so leads to exaggerated expectations. At the present , when the three states are our advanced outposts in a national situation where the Party and the left have been unable to expand the base and advance towards building a left and democratic front, it is unrealistic to expect the Left-led state governments to initiate any basic changes. Especially since the advent of liberalization and neo-liberal policies, our governments have been defensively reacting to protect whatever gains that were made and to bring about some development and provide relief to the people. As the 18th Congress political resolution stated:

“Faced with the neo-liberal policies of the Centre, the Left-led governments have to struggle hard to pursue policies which ensure pro-people and balanced development. While promoting private investment, the Left Front governments defend the public sector in key areas, protect and, if possible, expand public expenditure in the social sector and project alternative policies to protect the poorer sections who are the worst affected by the policies pursued by the Central government. “

While running the government, the policies and steps we take must be seen in the light of the all India tactical line and policies that we are advocating. While working within the serious constraints, the Party and the leadership of the state governments must be conscious that any policy or measure taken will have its impact nationally and all over the country. We have to constantly discuss and formulate policy measures which will balance the needs of the government with that of projecting the alternative policies that we are advocating.

As Party programme directive said, the work of the state governments should give a fillip to the movement in the rest of India. The policies and steps taken by the Left-led governments had an impact nationally. It enhanced the image of the party and its capacity for intervention. The land reform implementation, the panchayat system, the safeguarding of democratic rights of the working people, social welfare measures, the defence of secularism and checking communal forces – all these have helped the Party in the other states to propagate the achievements of the Party led state governments. While making policies and implementing measures, the Party and leadership of the state governments must bear in mind that what they do have an impact on the Party and movement in the rest of the country. It is the responsibility of the State party and government leadership to bear in mind that apart from fulfilling the commitments made to the people, we also have to run the governments in a manner that will strengthen the left and democratic forces in the country. It is the responsibility of the Party all over the country to understand the situation in which these governments are functioning and to highlight the pro-people measures and alternative approaches that we are adopting in these states.

***From a booklet published by CPI(M) Central Committee

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